Japanese language learning help

Discussion in 'General Off-Topic Chat' started by Philosophy, Mar 3, 2007.

Mar 3, 2007
  1. Philosophy
    OP

    Newcomer Philosophy Advanced Member

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    Peace,
    Been a member of the forum a bit but never posted in this topic so wanted to say what up.

    I am very interested in learning Japanese, and am starting with basically no knowledge of the language or writing. I have two options, take a class or learn on my own. Has anyone had any experience with trying to learn in either way? Did it end up helping or hindering? I'm assuming that it will be easier to learn how to understand it speaking wise VS writing wise first, but does anyone have any input? I've only tried to learn Spanish when I was younger but didn't really focus at it to get anything from it. I now am starting to get very much into Japanese culture/traditions via gaming/customs/music, etc and am eager to get a grasp on the understanding of the language. Anyone that could help me would be great, and I'm open to any suggestions. Thanks
     
  2. Katalyst

    Member Katalyst Johnald Everyperson

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    To be quite honest, you'd most likely be better off taking a class. Especially from a native teacher. I took two years of Jap in high school, and 2 semesters in college. Both teachers were native speakers and it helped a lot. With shit where like, it's better to say certain words and phrases in a different way or using a totally different word or else you'll sound like a talking text book. Plus, you'll also get a lot of stuff to help you study on your own. The books and dictionaries I had to get for the college classes of course are mine to keep and in HS, they got rid of that course so our teacher gave away all her teaching materials to us. Books, charts, flash cards, etc. And yeah, speaking of course would be easier than writing/reading, but that really doesn't do you any good unless you plan on going to Japan and talking your way through the visit. Plus, you wouldn't be able to play any Japanese games that didn't have voice acting. All in all, it wouldn't be difficult to learn it on your own. My younger sister is trying to learn it on her own right now, granted, she has access to all of my books/dictionaries and can ask me stuff from time to time, but she's doing alright so far. She's still in HS and they got rid of it at the HS I went to, so she doesn't have much of a choice. But if you've got a choice between learning it on your own and being taught, I'd recommend getting taught. You'll learn better when someone can tell you if you're doing something wrong.
     
  3. Sevael

    Member Sevael GBAtemp Regular

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    I chose to learn the Japanese language on my own, and I don't regret it one bit.

    Learning on your own is much more natural than learning in a classroom. Nobody learns their first language in a classroom, so why should they learn their second or third in a classroom? Further, I find many teaching methods to be rather inefficient, and every teaching method is imperfect. When you learn in a classroom, you learn from a single person who has a single point of view based on a single set of personal experiences. Even native Japanese teachers. That pales in comparison to the extremely well-rounded approach of learning on your own from various books, websites and people. That allows you to weed out the language myths and misconceptions and receive a much broader impression of how the language is used and understood by different people in different places and situations. I also find that learning in a classroom usually becomes too serious and puts far too much pressure on something that should be fun, interesting and free. Learning on your own can feel effortless and enjoyable, whereas few classes can boast the same.

    As far as where to begin, I began at the two following websites many years ago (thankfully they are still around!):
    http://www.sf.airnet.ne.jp/~ts/japanese/index.html
    http://www.freejapaneselessons.com/
    The first site is especially helpful, as it gives a lot of insight for people who have absolutely no experience with the language or the culture. Even if you do know a thing or two, I'm willing to bet there will be plenty of useful and interesting info that you had no idea about.

    Now you have to keep in mind that no one source is 100% accurate. Every Japanese-learning source contains errors or misconceptions, sometimes even glaring ones. It's best to take everything in as if it were opinion, then gather other "opinions" and eventually come to your own view of how to use and understand the language. I promise that your skill with the language will be more well-received that way. I can tell you that from personal experience. I couldn't even count how many things I had heard or read that ended up being completely wrong. I also have a friend who took a couple of years of Japanese at the local university (from Japanese-born professors no less), and when he arrived in Japan for the first time, he felt as if half of everything he learned was outdated, inappropriate, or just plain wrong. You're going to get a little of that no matter what, but broadening your knowledge base will narrow that down considerably. The more sources, the better.

    The most natural way to learn a language is through the spoken aspect first, as we all do with our own first languages. However, short of living in Japan with a family that will treat you as if you are their own young child, that isn't likely to pan out. [​IMG] Much of your initial learning will be through reading. I recommend you check out many different websites and books. Try to vary your topical coverage. Once you begin to grasp how the language works in its most basic aspects (the writing system, the pronunciation, etc), I would suggest first learning hiragana (and perhaps katakana). That will make it much easier and more enjoyable when it comes time to learn vocabulary. I found a freeware flashcard program that helped me to learn hiragana and katakana in several days. It didn't teach me how to write the characters, but I could read them rather quickly, which I felt was much more important at this stage of the learning process.

    Aside from reading, you will want to be able to listen to spoken Japanese as much as possible so that you can learn the speech patterns and just get used to hearing it. It is spoken much more quickly than English, and generally does not use emphasis like English does. If you are fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where you can access Japanese television signals (like much of west coast North America), then I recommend subscribing to said channels via your cable/satellite provider. Japanese television is very different from anything in North America or Europe, and gives a lot of insight into their culture and mannerisms. I highly recommend it if you can access it. I would gladly drop $100/month to add some Japanese television stations to my cable service if it were possible. I got totally hooked on it when I lived in Japan. [​IMG] If you can't access Japanese television or movies, anime is the next best source of spoken Japanese, and happens to be very accessible throughout the world. Just beware that anime is saturated with slang and extremely far-reaching fiction, so it is probably best to use it as a tool of speech pattern reference, rather than as a direct vocabulary-learning tool.

    Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, I highly recommend trying to find at least one native Japanese speaker with whom you can converse with for practice. Even if it is only an email penpal, that is far better than no one at all. That is what I did, as there are very very few Japanese in my city. Many sites online will match up penpals for language exchange, but you may want to spend some time studying before you venture into that area. I took the path of making a penpal after spending many months in self-study; I first wrote to her almost seven years ago, and it just so happens that now we are married! That shouldn't be your goal, of course, but stranger things could happen. [​IMG]

    In a nutshell, try to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. If you truly have a deep desire to learn the language and you enjoy the culture, then turn that passion into the energy it takes to motivate yourself to learn the language. Just remember that it will take years; there is no fast track. Some ways are faster than others (like, say, spontaneously moving to Japan and learning by pure necessity), but don't try to rush it. Don't buy into any of those quick-learning gimicks. Be patient and the knowledge will come. It is always much easier to learn something if you have an interest in it, so try to enjoy the ride. [​IMG]
     
  4. Orc

    Member Orc ‎(ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

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    Wow long post Sevael, I haven't read it all but I bet it's helpful. [​IMG]
    You can actually learn on your own just like Sevael said, if you're keen on it, you'll make it. [​IMG] For the reading part, I'd get a textbook, the Genki series from Japan Times comes in to mind and is pretty good in my opinion.
    Also, looking for a native speaker to talk to and practice is good and if you can't find anyone near you, try Sevael's suggestions or maybe there's one here in GBAtemp willing to give you a hand [​IMG] VOIP like Skype works wonders [​IMG]
     
  5. Katalyst

    Member Katalyst Johnald Everyperson

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    Hehe, I agree with a lot of what was said, but just for the sake of argument, you don't learn your first language from a text book either [​IMG] But yeah. A lot of shit that I have knowledge in now was most likely learned on my own. I didn't take a class on the internets or how to fix the computers. Nonetheless, don't completely forget about them. I'm sure I'd know a lot more on certain things had I taken classes on them as well as learning on my own. I stopped taking Japanese after my second semester of college and I can continue to teach myself, so I've got the best of both worlds there. I guess the point I was getting at with it being taught to you is that it gives you the opportunity to one, interact with a native, and two, interact with others in that class speaking the language. Like Sevael said though, if you've got friends who speak it or people you know from Japan that you can still interact with, then you wouldn't really need that part of the classroom aspect. And believe me, to use a cliche term, "If you don't use it, you'll lose it." After they got rid of the Japanese course in HS, I spent my second 2 years of HS not using it at all. I had no Japanese/Japanese speaking friends, and I of course wasn't taking the class. So once I hit the course in college, it took me a little while to kinda get back on the wagon. So yeah, bottomline, teach yourself if that's what you want to do, but don't forget about actual social interaction with the language. A text book isn't gonna take you all of the way.
     
  6. [M]artin

    Member [M]artin .

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    I agree that a class with a native teacher is the way to go, but here's what I think would work best:

    You ship yourself to Japan and live there.

    By living among those who have spoken it for years, you'll begin to pick up on all the words and phrases and stuffses. I have two years under the belt, but I plan on taking a vacation out there soon to expand my vocabulary.
     
  7. mthrnite

    Former Staff mthrnite So it goes.

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    I was trying to learn Japanese a while back, and unfortunately got sidetracked by life itself.
    To the two excellent links already presented by Sevael, I would add:
    JapanesePod101 - A very fun and non-tense podcast that helped me a great deal, especially with pronunciation and timing.
    japanese.about.com/ - Lots of stuff to dig through here, the phrase of the day mailing list is good for keeping you on your routine.

    If you're prone to having a bit of noise in the house anyway, find some japanese news podcasts to play in the background so your brain can play pattern match with it's off-cycles.

    I eventually want to get into classes, because I don't happen across native speakers where I live, and really, having someone to talk with works wonders. Sure helped me with Spanish.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Philosophy
    OP

    Newcomer Philosophy Advanced Member

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    Thanks alot. I really appreciate the insightful posts and the links. I knew there was a reason I liked this site.... [​IMG]
     
  9. karamu

    Newcomer karamu Member

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    not sure if you will put any weight on the fct i live in japan and have a japanese girlfriend that im preparing to marry next year.

    My advice is both! if you study in class you will not ONLY study in class, you will also need to study at home. having 3 hrs a week of Japanese class is not going to help you learn Japanese quickly if you don't do any study at home either. Trust me, been there, done that. You don't NEED to attend a class but i think it is very valuable, especially as you will learn polite japanese which should always be used when greeting new people. you need to meet Japanese so you can have a chance to use the language. the difficult thing about japanese class is for the first while they usually just teach you polite japanese, which is not used in regular conversation between friends. but be patient because all japanese classes should eventually cover the informal conversation side of things, you need to know how to make verbs from polite form into dictionary form when you make longer sentences. eg. è¡Œãã¾ã™ (ikimasu/yukimasu) -> è¡Œã (iku/yuku)

    main points of advice:
    ## don't learn culture from anime, most people i have met who have done so are totally off on how things are actually done here in Japan. I tell my Japanese friends about learning culture from anime and they laugh a lot about it.
    ## Don't buy books with romaji (romanised Japanese) the reason for this is that it may help you to learn how to say words quicker but it won't help your reading or writing ability. there are like 45 hiragana characters and then the rest are modifications of those. for example ã»(ho) ã¼(bo) ã½(po) ã‹(ka) ãŒ(ga)
    If you put just a couple of days into it, you can know hiragana in no time. i learn them in 1 day, you can too.
    ## make sure your teacher is a native speaker, it will be much better for you, and make sure the class doesn't use romaji.

    Book advice:
    I really like the series ã¿ã‚“ãªã®æ—¥æœ¬èªž (minna no nihongo or everyone's japanese) You need to buy two books, the exercise book and the english translation and grammar notes book. there are two books in the series both are good and by the time you have completed the two books you will have covered a lot of grammar and vocabulary. I started learning Japanese with Japanese for Everybody (kana edition) but that book is too slow to progress.

    Final Advice - to learn any language you can't do it from one source effectively, you need to get as many sources as possible and spend a lot of time studying. as for me, i'm off to comtinue studying kanji, so many to learn ^^

    EDIT: wrote Japanese in Unicode encoding.
     
  10. ChowMein

    Member ChowMein GBAtemp Regular

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    Good luck with the proposal karamu.
    Very useful information and sites btw, I'm sure alot of people want to actually understand what they are playing.
     
  11. Mortenga

    Member Mortenga GBAtemp Regular

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    Man, it would be awesome to know japanese.

    Anime without subtitles. [​IMG]
     
  12. Sevael

    Member Sevael GBAtemp Regular

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    I feel that it is rather detrimental to learn polite Japanese before standard/casual Japanese. The root (dictionary, unconjugated) form of words are what is used in casual speech, which will be 90% or more of the speech you will eventually use if you end up in Japan. Learning polite form first means that when you are ready to learn standard speech, you have to change each word to its initial root form in your head first, then conjugate appropriately. That is an extra step that complicates things far more than necessary, which can be very detrimental to the learning process. It is far easier to learn the standard form of the language first, then just think of the polite form as a kind of conjugation in itself which you can pick up on incredibly quickly later on. This is how Japanese children learn their own language. The most effective way to learn a language is to learn naturally, the same way the native speakers do.

    Something else to remember is that native Japanese will not expect you to be proficient with their language. They are very forgiving of foreigners not speaking Japanese correctly. It is far more important to be able to understand and be understood than it is to be polite. You typically only need polite speech when speaking to teachers, employers and store clerks. And even for store clerks, many Japanese don't use polite speech for them anymore. It is better to struggle your way through the rare polite speech and be proficient with casual speech than it is to be limited to using polite speech with everybody. Your friends and aquaintences will feel rather uncomfortable if you exclusively use polite speech with them. [​IMG]
     

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